When you don’t have access to the types of fresh food that remind you of home, one of your options could be to just open your own restaurant dedicated to the organic meals you’re used to. That’s exactly what Siggy Sollitto did when she moved from Israel to New York City in 1993.
After conquering New York City with two successful restaurants — one in Brooklyn Heights and another in Manhattan — Sollitto settled down in the Belmont neighborhood to continue leading a revolution in providing high-quality organic comfort food.
Siggy’s Good Food has only been open in Charlotte since September, but business is growing steadily thanks to Sollitto’s passion for clean plates with a Mediterranean influence.
Queen City Nerve sat down recently with Sollitto to discuss the importance of fast fresh food, small-scale success and maintaining a loyal customer base in Charlotte.
Queen City Nerve: What inspired you to open your first restaurant in New York?
Siggy Sollitto: I came from Israel to New York City in 1993, and food in America was a really hard adjustment, to bear with food not being fresh. There were no organic, fresh or local ingredients available, and it’s a different way of eating [in Israel]. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables there, so it was really hard to find a place where you could find a quick good sandwich or a quick good salad. When I finally was ready to open my own business, I knew I wanted to have a place where you could grab a good sandwich, and the only place I found that was similar to my homeland was in the organic food stores. That’s when I realized the importance of organics, and I believed other people would know the difference and desire a clean plate as well.
What drew you to Charlotte?
I’ve been traveling down here for the past three years visiting my sister, and I invested in real estate. Part of the investment was buying this building, so when things were going south in the economy of New York, I decided to open [Siggy’s] here.
I love the way [the neighborhood] is built, in a small village style. The small streets, the sidewalks, even though it’s very quiet it still feels like a little village. And I like the mix of residential and commercial around the neighborhood. It’s less alienating than the rest of suburbia where you have just houses and then shopping centers.
How has business been for Siggy’s so far?
It’s climbing nicely. It’s a lot of adjustment from what I know business is than what it’s actually like in Charlotte. It’s a very different way of doing business. The people are the same; all people want and appreciate good and clean meals. The volume of business and the rhythm of life, though, [is different].
Do you source your ingredients locally?
As best as I can, yes. We get our meats from Windy Hill Farm, [but we also get] some of our chickens from Virginia. We do the best we can.
How have your customers responded to the organic menu?
We get a lot of [good feedback]. But I’ve been fortunate over the years to always hear that from customers, and when I first opened I didn’t think it would be that way, but then over the years that was the response and I thought, “Wow, I’m so lucky.”
Both of your restaurants in New York were very successful. How are you adjusting to success on a smaller scale here?
Brooklyn Heights was a neighborhood place, and we had the same customers for 10 years. In Manhattan, I was working and living there since I first moved to New York in 2001. That year I opened a health food store on the Lower East Side, and three years later a Whole Foods came by and [we closed]. Afterwards I came back with Siggy’s in NoHo [Manhattan], but there’s very few dedicated regular residents and it was very transient. Here we have dedicated customers that come here when they’re in town. Here, people are more stationed, people are more open and that’s nice.
Siggy’s Good Food is at 1001 Belmont Ave.; Tues.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10:30 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., closed Monday.